Japanese Green Tea Ceremony and culture
James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Japanese green tea ceremony dates back to the ninth century but modifications and reasons behind its popularity have changed. Matcha, powdered green tea, is served based on certain rites and the ritual nature is a vital element alongside simplicity, silence, and a spiritual feel. The spiritual angle comes from Zen Buddhism which influenced the tea ceremony.
Otemae is the performance name for this ritual and today it is a popular pastime where many individuals learn the skills of ritual, elegance and to perfect the way of this cultural aspect of Japanese culture. The ceremony itself is called chanoyu or chado (also pronounced sado) and in the early period Zen Buddhism would have enabled a strong inner feeling while enjoying the taste.
Chakai and chaji are the two different classifications for tea gatherings. Chakai is more common because it is used for hospitality and some Japanese gardens perform this for visitors. For example, in Rikugien Garden in Komagome in Tokyo you have a small resting place by the pond and tourists and visitors to the garden can enjoy Chakai.
The green tea in Rikugien Garden in Komagome tastes delicious and a small Japanese sweet is served with the green tea. However, because of the splendid nature of this garden you can feel the spiritual connection and this simplistic pleasure fuses well with the senses.
Chaji is very different and can take around four hours or more because this is based on kaiseki which is a full –course meal. If you have never experienced this then it is well worth it because the mixture of elegance, food preparation, motion, taste, thick tea, thin tea, and the ethical side of this all fuses together.
In Chinzan-so, located in Tokyo, this majestic garden also highlights not only the beauty of this stunning and sophisticated garden but the religious angle is also very important. Within this garden you have many places to enjoy scrumptious food and you can also experience kaiseki at its very best.
This applies to nature, food, culture, ritual, and a stunning backdrop because of the scenery coming together. “Kinsui” is a traditional restaurant and is located in a delightful area and the kaiseki cuisine is sure to please alongside other genuine and delicious Japanese dishes. Also, you have a casual dining area located in “Kinsui” called “Hanaguruma” and this restaurant is also a great place to eat and relax.
Ledia Runnels comments that “In the 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, that focused on the cultivation and preparation of tea. Lu Yu’s life was influenced by the Zen Buddhism school of Zen–Chán. Needless to say, his ideas had a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.”
“In the 9th century, tea was brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Eichū, who had visited China and brought tea seeds back with him…..It was near the 12th century when the style of tea preparation called “tencha” became popular. In this ceremony, matcha was placed in a bowl with hot water poured over it. The water and ground tea were then whipped together.”
“By the 13th century, the Kamakura Shogunate, the ruling class of samurai warriors, used tea as a kind of status symbol…..During the Muromachi Period, that centered around the gorgeous cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the formation of what was to become the traditional Japanese culture of today came to be, where the Japanese tea ceremony evolves to aesthetic practice of “Wabi-sabi.” “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences. “Sabi” represents the outer, or material of life. By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.”
Therefore, today in modern Japan the tea ceremony is used for a variety of situations but the old deeper meaning still exists within special environments. Also, just like the Kamakura period the tea ceremony does belong within high culture. This applies to special settings where the inner values of the tea ceremony and the ritual nature of this are still very powerful.
The simplistic form of chakai is more common and tourists to Japan will often experience this. In special places in Tokyo, like Rikugien Garden in Komagome, even chakai feels spiritual and cultural because of the scenery in this exquisite garden.
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